regulatory bodies

regulatory bodies
   Regulatory bodies are agencies that oversee particular industrial areas or activities where some economic, political or socio-cultural concern exists (for example, over industrial concentration or public interest requirements). Usually they are appointed by government, though self-appointed semi-official regulatory bodies do also exist, such as the Press Complaints Commission. While following a general remit laid down by government (or the industry if an industry-appointed body), the regulatory body has a degree of autonomy in its day-to-day undertakings. Regulatory bodies come in a number of forms, such as those that oversee all industries in terms of a theme, for example the Monopolies and Mergers Commission (MMC), and those that focus on specific activities, such as the Independent Television Commission (ITC).
   Historically, broadcasting has been the one area of the media that has had its own specific government regulators: the ITC for the commercial sector and the governors of the BBC for the BBC. The reason regulation has been viewed as necessary for broadcasting is because of the nature of the medium: the scarcity of channels, the possible abuse of monopoly power and the perceived influence and power of radio and television in the life of the nation. Therefore, a regulator has been needed to control access to the limited airwaves and to oversee the service and content actually provided on behalf of the public. Other forms of media—cinema and the press— have escaped official regulation by creating their own industry appointed bodies such as the British Board of Film Censors (BBFC) and the Press Complaints Commission. Specific government regulation did not seem warranted in these areas because of the openness of such markets to competition and because of worries about government censorship and control.
   With technological developments now providing an abundance of television and radio channels, the role of the regulator is changing. It is argued that, with huge numbers of channels now coming on stream, broadcasting is becoming more like the press in that anyone can now enter the market. Therefore, regulation should concentrate less on the specific working and content of broadcasting and more on the fair and open operation of the market. With the convergence of telecommunications and broadcast technologies and services, the question of whether OFTEL, the telecommunications regulator, and the broadcasting regulators, ITC and the BBC governors, should merge to create one large regulator—OFCOM—has been raised.
   See also: democracy; lobby groups
   Further reading
    Murroni, C. and Collins, R. (1996) New Media, New Policies: Media and Communications Strategies for the Future, London: Polity Press.
   PAUL RIXON

Encyclopedia of contemporary British culture . . 2014.

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